Modelling Kinship and Other Constraints on Network Efficiency

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Historically, there is a fundamental question about how humans managed to raise their community sizes from the upper limit of 50 characteristic of monkeys and apes, through the 150 characteristic of contemporary hunter-gatherers to the successive layers of 500 and 1500 and beyond that seems to have been the trajectory since the Neolithic settlement. It seems that what we have done is find ways to add successive layers onto our base social system, and the question is: what cognitive or behavioural mechanisms have made this possible, and how stable are they? As a first step in exploring the implications of this for understanding contemporary large scale societies, we will use agent based modelling to explore the role of kinship in reducing the cognitive load required for maintaining cohesion in personal networks, and then use these models to examine network efficiency and stability in more general terms so as to identify catastrophe points where a phase shift in cognition and/or behaviour had to occur.

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